BURLINGTON — When Fletcher Allen Health Care  announced in September that it would be axing the Claire M. Lintilhac Nurse Midwifery Services, the news took patients and nurses by surprise. Even the program’s namesakes didn’t see it coming. The decision meant that FAHC would no longer provide 24-hour nurse-midwife services to several dozen expectant mothers.
In the face of staunch criticism, the hospital has reversed itself. Earlier this month, Fletcher Allen announced the stand-alone nurse-midwifery program would be integrated into the Vermont Perinatal Care  (VPC) low-risk obstetrical service. The move ensures a midwife will be available all day, every day, to pregnant women seeking services.
“We heard the concerns of people, and we were able to work out this program,” says Fletcher Allen spokesman Mike Noble. “It gives people a lot of options and it really mirrors what we see in similar types of practices in the immediate area.”
In addition to restoring the 24-hour service, the new program — which was announced after weeks of negotiations between VPC and the Vermont Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals  — also offers exclusive obstetrician care or combined care that includes nurse-midwife and obstetrical care.
The initial decision to cut the program, which has been around since 1975, was based on declining requests for 24-hour midwife care. The program recorded a net loss of $482,278 since 2004 and Noble says the current service will be reevaluated after two years.
If too few women select the 24-hour nurse-midwifery service, or it continues to lose money, Noble says FAHC will end it. “But we would do it in such a way that people under care will continue to have that option,” he says.